English Faculty Publications

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Book Chapter

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Adolescent Literacy: A Handbook of Practice-Based Research


In a teacher education classroom in Toronto, groups of middle school students, teacher candidates, and university researchers, members of our research collaborative, the Teaching to Learn Project (Simon et al., 2014; Simon & the Teaching to Learn Project, 2014), discuss projects developed from curricula they coauthored for Art Spiegelman’s graphic novel Maus: A Survivor’s Tale (1986). Maus documents Spiegelman’s father’s recollections of the Holocaust and the author’s own struggles to come to terms with what it means to be the child of a Holocaust survivor.

Youth and teachers involved in the Teaching to Learn Project collectively worked through what historian Dominick LaCapra (1998) has referred to as the “delicate relationship between empathy and critical distance” (pp. 4–5) in the process of responding to Spiegelman’s text, a book that reflects profound human suffering. Through collaborative inquiries, the group attempted to challenge the traditional notion that curriculum is developed for students (or for teachers), and instead aimed to work with students to meaningfully engage with issues that mattered from individuals’ perspectives.

We also coresearched this process. Building on a cross-site partnership between a middle school in the Toronto District School Board and our university, we involved youth and teachers in the process of inquiry. This included data collection, as well as inviting participants to document their understandings through writing, film, video, and conceptual art. This multifaceted collaboration allowed us to explore how adolescents individually and collectively imagine alternative ways of engaging with a text such as Maus, while at the same time providing a space for teacher candidates to develop pedagogical practices from listening to and collaborating with students who participated with them on our research team.

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Chapter 23 is available for download with the permission of the publisher. Permission documentation is on file.

From Adolescent Literacies: A Handbook of Practice-Based Research. Edited by Kathleen A. Hinchman and Deborah A. Appleman.

No part of this text may be reproduced, translated, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, microfilming, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the publisher.

To purchase the book, see the publisher's website.


Guilford Press

Place of Publication

New York, NY